#ThisFlag: Citizens Rising
It’s imperative to know that the days building up to Zimbabwe Independence Day 2016 saw many Zimbabweans online speaking out on issues troubling our country. Beginning with the missing 15 billion dollars that President Robert Mugabe brought to light, to the MDC March, which drew a lot of support and scrutiny, to now, where Zimbabweans are using #Thisflag to unify voices online. This hashtag builds on the voices of concerned citizens who have been petitioning against bad governance, unaccountable, nontransparent leaders, and ongoing corruption. To suggest that this hashtag campaign is any other ideology, is a cheap way of thinking that Zimbabweans are stupid, docile and cannot see straight through the theft, plundering and human rights abuses that have been perpetuated over the years by our leaders.
Activists from all walks of life have been speaking about holding leaders accountable for their corruption. I, too, remember venting on Facebook just after hearing about the missing money that Zimbabweans shouldn’t joke as much as they did online over serious matters like national resources, or 15 billion dollars going missing, but should be bold to hold leaders accountable.
The campaign against corruption, bad governance and accountability has predecessors who ought to be remembered even as citizens rise today, and to know that they stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before them. It’s important to reflect on the lives of human rights activists who died for this country since the year 2000, who were made to disappear and who starved because they spoke out boldly – calling the masses to action and fighting for #ThisFlag. Itai Dzamara is a name close to our hearts of a young Zimbabwean man who felt fed up just like many people online who are using #thisflag today, and those that have been and will continue talking about these issues. Women were raped and killed between 2000 and 2008 fighting for a better Zimbabwe.
Further, we see the power of the part the church plays in a struggle. In the past, churches have played the role of praying for the country, while activists took to the streets, to television and newspapers about the suffering of the people and the misuse, bad governance and corruption this country has endured. Pastor Evan Mawarire rising from the citizens and as a pastor, is a role model that makes many citizens realise and claim their power and see it as OK to finally approach leadership to make things right for the country, supporting the work activists have struggled with over the years. Simply put, the people have a right and are exercising that right!
People are beginning to realise that #ThisFlag represents our country. We are part of it, it’s not for the people whom we put into power to manipulate and use against us, it’s ours. Whomever wants to side line, minimize and make this movement seem like it is about one person, or funded by whoever, needs to realise that it is ours!
Now, following Pastor Evan Mawarire’s Ms Ruvheneko and Mr. Tafadzwa, it leaves a lot to be desired about how patronised people have been over the years. The record has to be set straight. I noted the following about the interview and I would like to comment as such:
- Zimbabweans speaking out through #ThisFlag is a constitutional right, a responsibility they have for their children and future generations. It is a shame that over the years as citizens, they’d left the speaking out only to human rights activists, opposition political parties, and foreigners. But now it is time we took our rightful place in our civil society.
- #ThisFlag is part of already ongoing discussions and talks about governance issues and corruption in this country. It shouldn’t be mistaken for anything but an open space for all citizens whose jobs have been lost, education hindered, and human rights violated to reclaim and lift #ThisFlag and #FixOurCountry. Over the years Zimbabwe has had activists both online and in mainline media encourage youths, women and communities to speak out. As a human rights activist I’ve had the privilege of working and campaigning on the ground and online with the following friends in my circles who’ve spoken out on countless times about these issues as concerned citizens, they are not from the West or East, they are mainly from Zimbabwe and are Zimbabweans. This list includes the following people: Cleopatra Ndlovu, Nyasha Sengayi, Tendai Garwe, Shingi Mavima, Lucy Mazingi Makaza, Janah Ncube Musimwa, Mike Tashaya, Angela Machonisa, Tariro Tandi, Barbara Nyagomo, Tafadzwa Bete Sasa, Martha Tholana, Jimmy Wilford, Thomas Chizhanje, Mbuya Muroro, Fadzai Mukonoweshuro, Henry Chitsenga, Fortune Pahwaungana, Alex Magaisa, Brian Muchemwa, Chipo Bangira, Arthur Gwagwa, Doc Suli, Simbarashe Nyanhanga, Glen Dhliwayo, Carl Joshua Ncube, Chipo Bangira, Rita Nyampinga, Trevor Ncube, Netsai Mushonga, Norman Musimwa, Sylvia Sanyanga, McDonald Lewanika, Hillary Musarurwa, Nigel Mugamu, Maria Mapolisa, Beighton Chireka, Tayiwona Sanangurai, Wilhelm Olivier, Batsirai Chigama, Jestina Mukoko, Charlton Tsodzo, Hillary Musarurwa, Nelsy Ncube, Barbara Mhangami, Ropafadzo Mapimhidze, Nqo Dube, Grace Chirenje, Sally Dura and my big sister Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, to mention but a few. The common thread they share is the love and the care for their country. Many of them are lifting #ThisFlag and reclaiming the pride through speaking out.
The threatening and intimidation that we heard from the panelist Tafadzwa Musarara, who was supposed to be a political analyst but turned out to be an apologist against freedom of expression, is what has kept many Zimbabweans silent. Intimidating brave citizens like Evan Mawarire from speaking not only violates the constitution, but tries to keep the country under the pedagogy of oppression. The oppressed have to realise that they are oppressed and they have to rise! The citizens are rising and the ancestors of Zimbabwe must be happy. Nehanda and Chaminuka brought us the legacy so that we can look after it well, this docility and passivity has kept their bodies rolling in their graves for a long time.
#ThisFlag is creating a path to fixing our country and the start is that we demand for a public inquiry into the missing fifteen billion dollars and the public must be kept informed about this process. Secondly the ministers declare their wealth and every suspected act of corruption and misuse of national resources be accounted for, and perpetrators not only pay back but be prosecuted. We know mismanagement and swindling resources by an elite few has kept us on our knees. We will hold those who lead us to account for that power that we gave them through the election. Thirdly ministers should respect the electorate and remain accountable and getting a mandate from those they represent, beginning with the Ministry of Education. Imposing changes like national pledge without public inquiry and changing traditional and religious things like Scripture Union, and refusing NGOs in schools to share legal information single-handedly (such as comprehensive reproductive health rights) is unacceptable. Zimbabwe is a constitutional country which should be run according to the constitution. #ThisFlag campaign will indeed bring our country to systematic accountability and end corruption! Zimbabweans are rising holding #thisflag to #fixourcountry!. Lets continue sharing and build on the movement!
Nyaradzo Mashayamombe is Human Rights Activist, Founder and Executive Director of Tag a Life Inter(TaLI), Development Consultant, Recording Artist and lover of life. Twitter handle: @nyarimash.